Updated 10 August 2017

IBS: my constant nag of pain

For those few moments waiting for the pain to subside - life seems unbearable. And that is when breathing becomes a chore and your intestines are tied up in a knot.

At the tender age of 11, it finally struck  Hanover Park’s Janine Philander, a salient ‘A’ student: 'my mother has gone to heaven’.  Despite being in the care of adults, she was forced to look after herself, and her health was not perfect. When successfully completing her final year of schooling it seemed that she was well on her way, but the constant nag of pain remained; consuming her. She tells her story

Two years after matriculation I found that I was suffering from constant stomach cramps, and I couldn't understand why they only affected my left side.

Over the years my symptoms were mild and I didn’t ever consider seeking specialist medical help. I continuously visited my local doctor and he dismissed my complaints as constipation, but eventually he gave me a letter for Groote Schuur hospital. 

At the hospital I underwent numerous tests, such as ultra sounds, pap smears, and examinations by a few doctors. I was later admitted to Groote Schuur hospital and they did a lapscope. The procedure was long and tiring, I was awake throughout. They made a small incision inside my navel and inserted a tiny camera to see if they could locate the cause of the pain I'd been experiencing. They didn't find anything abnormal and my complaints were dismissed yet again. I was discharged with more pain killers.

Finally, a breakthrough

I was doing okay for a while, but the pain returned and this time it was crippling. I went to another doctor for a second opinion - this time in Hanover Park. The junior partner of the practice examined me and misdiagnosed my condition. I returned to the same surgery and asked to consult with the senior partner who diagnosed a spastic colon. By this time I was 23 years old.

My bowel movements weren’t regular and I constantly felt bloated and nauseas. The doctor advised me to drink a lot of water daily and to increase my fibre intake as that would help my digestive system.

The medication he prescribes are mainly painkillers such as anti-spasmodic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and analgesic and antipyretic, and sometimes it can get so bad that I have to go to the doctor for an injection. I was prescribed Miller pas, but I experienced an intense allergic reaction to something in the medication called fenamin. At times I would be so desperate for pain relief that I would consume the Miller pas tablets anyway, even though I knew that it would cause a terrible reaction.

Eating right has made a difference

I eat fibre plus cereal every morning and in the evening, and the pain has been dramatically reduced. I try my best to eat properly.  I eat one fibre-rich yoghurt a day. And I don’t smoke or drink. 

I find the odd day where the pain is at its worst, and only then will I take pain killers. When it does happen, the pain is so severe, I get stuck wherever I am, unable to move – I'm even afraid to breathe because even breathing can aggravate the pain. And I wait for the pain to subside. It feels as if my intestines are tied up in a knot, and there is nothing I can do about it.

It’s been six years and I have grown tired of having to pop pills for pain relief. I just want the pain to stop. So I’ve learnt the hard way to make sure that I consume enough water during the day. I’m living a healthier lifestyle, but the pain hasn't disappeared.


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